Mon 3 Oct 2011 – Twenty-six countries representing both the developed and developing world convened in New Delhi on Thursday and Friday (Sept 29-30) to discuss moves on how to oppose the “unilateral” inclusion of their aircraft operators into the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme, which starts in less than three month’s time. Amongst the 70 delegates were representatives from the major emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, as well developed countries such as Canada, Japan and the United States. A concluding statement said the inclusion of non-EU states into the scheme was inconsistent with applicable international law and the states would present their opposition in a working paper to the ICAO Council for consideration. At a briefing to the ICAO Council on Thursday, a European Commission official said the EU ETS was fully in compliance with both ICAO and UNFCCC principles.
Countries present at the New Delhi meeting, chaired by India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation, included Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, UAE and the United States. Five of the participants – Chile, Cuba, Paraguay, Peru and the Philippines – do not have any carriers included in the EU ETS.
Delegates declared the EU ETS violated provisions of the Chicago Convention, which governs international civil aviation, and the World Trade Organization, with various delegates pointing out the scheme was also discriminatorily applied to carriers.
The statement recalled provisions of the UNFCCC and stressed the importance of the Kyoto Protocol. It also “highlighted the essential role of aviation in economic progress and also recognised the complementary national, regional and global endeavours developed on the basis of collaboration and mutual agreement to address aviation emissions.” It reaffirmed ICAO’s important role on the issue and called upon the body to continue its aviation emission reduction efforts.
The declaration signatories agreed to continue working and meeting together to oppose the imposition of the EU ETS on their aircraft operators and invited other similarly-minded states to join them.
The ambiguously-worded statement gives the impression that the meeting had been sanctioned by the governing ICAO Council. Reuters ran an article on Friday headlined “UN aviation body meeting opposes EU carbon plan” but an ICAO spokesman said there were inaccuracies in the report and the opening sentence of the Indian statement was confusing and had led to a misunderstanding.
He confirmed the issue of the EU ETS was already on the agenda for the current Council Session and will be reviewed in November. The Indian statement said the joint declaration would be placed by the states involved for consideration by the ICAO Council through a working paper.
The United States’ participation in the meeting was condemned by New York-based Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).
“Countries say this issue should be addressed in a global forum, but after 14 years of frittering in ICAO, the tooth fairy has a better chance of delivering a serious plan to curb the rapidly rising global warming emissions from aviation anytime soon,” said Annie Petsonk, International Counsel at EDF. “We don’t have time for a fantasy approach to a real-world environmental problem.”
Commented EDF aviation specialist Jenny Cooper: “Since the United States apparently cannot lead on this issue, are they are going to obstruct instead? The rest of the world is moving forward on climate change, and we need to play a constructive role.”
Added Petsonk: “The Obama Administration pledged to lead global efforts to cut climate pollution, but with regard to aviation, the only thing the State Department and the Department of Transportation are doing now is helping obstruct other nations’ efforts to tackle the problem.”
Whilst the 25-state meeting was taking place in India, the EU was briefing the ICAO Council in Montreal on the EU ETS. Artur Runge-Metzger, International and Climate Strategy Director at the European Commission, told the Council last Thursday (September 29) that global aviation emissions could reach 3.5 gigatonnes by 2050, one-fifth of the 18 gigatonnes to which global emissions needed to be limited to contain global warming to +2 degrees C.
He said the EU ETS had already been in existence for seven years and through the CDM had contributed to many emissions reduction projects in the developing world. The current scheme also included many businesses headquartered outside of the EU, such as US Steel, Petrochina and Tata Steel.
He said business preferred emissions trading to other regulation and airline trade body IATA had backed the extension of the EU ETS to cover aviation in September 2006. ICAO itself, he added, had endorsed an open emissions trading system since 2001.
Runge-Metzger said the EU ETS was compatible with ICAO’s approach, was non-discriminatory and consistent with the 15 guiding principles adopted at the 2010 Assembly. He reported that 98 ICAO member states, over half, had no carriers that would be covered by the scheme.
The EU was ready to “engage constructively” in consultations with third states that take measures to reduce climate change impacts, he said, and the Commission could use “implementing powers” to exclude from the EU ETS flights arriving from those states.
He denied the scheme was a tax as emissions trading was clearly recognised by ICAO as a different policy instrument to taxes and charges and the key objective of the policy was to limit emissions, not to raise revenues. Most of the allowances were allocated for free and there was no obligation on aircraft operators to buy at government auctions.
Runge-Metzger also maintained the EU ETS was consistent with the UNFCCC principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) as it applied to businesses active in the EU market and not to states. He added that discriminating between operators on the basis of nationality would be incompatible with the Chicago Convention.
In the meantime, he said, the EU was committed to continue working within ICAO for a global agreement and would be preparing and submitting its own action plans to ICAO. However, he called on ICAO to accelerate follow-up work on market-based measures (MBMs), including a feasibility study on a global MBM system, as well as medium and long term goals.
Indian meeting statement
Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation
EDF press release
European Commission briefing on EU ETS to ICAO Council (Powerpoint can be downloaded from ‘Presentations’)
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